Iran unveils US-modelled 'Thunder' drone

Iran unveils US-modelled 'Thunder' drone
Modelled on a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone captured in Iran in 2011, the new drone allegedly has the capacity to hit 'four targets with smart precision-guided bombs with high accuracy'.
3 min read
02 October, 2016
A captured US drone on display in Tehran in February 2012 [AFP]
Iran unveiled a new home-made drone on Saturday claiming the surveillance device was capable of carrying bombs.

The drone, called Saegheh, or "Lighting" in Farsi, was unveiled at an expo aimed at showcasing the latest achievements of the aerospace wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards corps.

"This long-range drone is capable of hitting four targets with smart precision-guided bombs with high accuracy," the head of the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

No demonstration of the Saegheh’s abilities was given, nor was it specified what range the machine had.

Iranian media claimed that the new drone was based on one US drone that was captured in eastern Iran in December 2011. At that time the Obama administration at first denied that the shot-down US RQ-170 Sentinel aircraft belonged to the United States but later changed tone requesting its return. 

For its part Tehran refused, requesting an apology for spying on Iran with unmanned aircraft. Washington had claimed that the drone had been flying on the Afghan side of the Afghanistan-Iran border when its operators lost control of the vehicle.

Speaking at that time Joe Lieberman, then chairman of the US Senate homeland security committee said that the incident "was not good for the US" however stating that "I don't have confidence at this point that they are really able to make a copy of it."

"It's a very sophisticated piece of machinery and has served our national security well, including, I would guess, being used to look all over Iran, particularly at areas where we have reason to believe that they are working on a nuclear weapon."

Later in December 2014, Iran made their first claims that the captured US drone had been successfully replicated by experts within the Revolutionary Guards with video footage broadcast at state media at the time depicting one Revolutionary Guards officer saying: "Our engineers succeeded in breaking the drone's secrets and copying them. It will soon take a test flight" and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei stating: "This drone is very important for reconnaissance missions."

Speaking on Saturday, Commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that the Saegheh had the capacity to "simultaneously strike at four targets with smart bombs that have pinpoint precision-striking capability in far distances" before striking an antagonistic tone towards the United States.

"The Americans are on par with us in certain (drone building) fields, including production of stealth and bomber drones," said Hajizadeh, in comments published in Fars News, "… actually, the Americans are trying to stay on par with us in this section."